Wednesday, April 29, 2009


Well, interview done. I spoke on the phone with a Herald reporter for about a 1/2 hour yesterday. Very nice woman who seemed interested in the program and understood the need it fills. I was also able to get a few parents to call her and they were even willing to let their children speak with her. I am interested to see what comes of all of this! I am also sitting down this week with a friend and looking at ways to help sustain the program beyond the end of my sabbatical...big task to grapple with. It is clear to me that a key component is supervision of all aspects of the program. And, I believe the type of person doing that should be a teacher (to help appropriately guide the curriculum) but I think parent volunteers and high school tutors are doing and can do an excellent job of teaching the curriculum with that type of guidance :) I also think that the M3 program should be taught in grades 3-5 at least twice a week by a teacher. When I return to my current position, I can continue the after school program with my colleague, manage the high school tutors at my home school and the continue with the website/newsletter at my home school but my guess is that's about all I would have time for. I would love to see all the same programs in all the elementary schools in my district. What does the future hold....always a mystery...but exciting!

Friday, April 24, 2009

In the News?

So, I'm very excited that the local paper is running a story on the AMPed (Accelerated Math) program. I'm being interviewed next week as are some of my elementary AMPed students and a couple of our high school tutors. We have our website up and running for AMPed NF, a newsletter that's been published and 3 different AMPed components at one school, two at another. It's all very exciting. I have to admit, tho, that I am a bit trepidacious with these types of things. I know I need to be thoughtful in the interview. I tend to get so excited and ramble on! I mentioned that to my friend who is a producer, has a radio show and has been in the news. She's also one of my yoga buddies. She tells me, "You will be surprised at what they take from the interview and publish. You can't predict!" So I will just let it be what it will be. We have a new and creative school program for kids who are typically "left behind" (capable kids don't need instruction, do they???) despite the national mandate that no child is left behind anymore. If you are highly capable in math and at the elementary level, you are pretty much on your own in a number of states/cities. Teachers try to differentiate (make one math program work for all kids) but they are so busy and the focus tends to be on kids who are struggling given our current testing climate and scrutiny over test scores. With the AMPed program, we now have a lots of ways to teach these highly capable and very grateful kids. I have had many students say, "This is hard and I love it!" Kids and parents enjoy the new program, kids are learning at their level....who doesn't want to hear about all that? :)

Monday, April 20, 2009

Out Sick

Sick leave today....hopefully I will be OK by afternoon to supervise tutors but will warn them I may not be in. Gratefully, my trusted colleague is there for tutors when I am not. This week I have to write a proposal to help sustain all my hard work into next year. I will be busy this week but for now.....laying low.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Sustainability and Improvement

So, the program is up and running and I am thrilled to report, all is well. We have 6 high school tutors in two elementary schools teaching about 50 students in grades 3-5. We have our wonderful after school program where my colleague and I work with about 20 students over the course of two afternoons, grades 2-5. We have two websites, one launched and one in the making. We have published one newsletter. We have an excellent curriculum to use (Project M3). The administrative time for everything is way more than I anticipated but it takes that kind of attention to keep things running, I find. The tutors require significantly more time from me than I imagined they would. They work with a lot of students and are students themselves....that requires an investment of time, attention, and focus to make sure we have a happy, fun, educational math enrichment program.

Sustainability was a big component of my sabbatical. How can we keep the programs I have developed beyond my 4-month sabbatical? That is the question I face right now. I am also at the point where I want to go see other model programs to see how we can improve ours. So, as the weather warms up in New England, I will be traveling around Maine, New Hampshire and maybe even Massachusetts to see what kinds of programs are out there for elementary-aged students who are highly capable in math. And, I would like to see a bigger after school program at both schools I am already in. This is the time and place where we do projects and run studies and have a lot of math fun with teachers guiding and teaching. I would also like to see the programs I have developed in all of the elementary schools in my school district (there are 3 schools but only 2 are involved the the AMP program so far). And, importantly, I am developing, with my computer-expert step son, an open source website so all of my work can be posted on the web. And, I have thoughts of a summer program swimming around in the back of my mind as spring break nears!!! Whew........ with two months left, I have my work cut out for me!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Web site, finally!

Click on AMPed....A Math Adventure. Cool.......

Friday, April 10, 2009

I Feel Good, Na Na Na Na Na, I Feel Good......

I had the coolest experience this week. Wednesday afternoon I found myself tending the big after school math enrichment program held in my friend's class room. We had 14 students grades 1-5. One group was gathered around the computer designing a pie chart for the data the Tuesday group had collected on their Favorite Dessert study. Celine, my friend, colleague and partner in crime, was leading the group as they worked to design a computer-generated pie chart. They thought that was appropo...a pie chart for a dessert study..hahah. Another group was taking our robot, Franklin, apart so we could replace his batteries. Amazingly, one of my students could do it by removing one, yes, only one piece! Remarkable. Another smaller group, 1st and 5th grade girls (how sweet was that to see - big and little working together), was editing our AMPed website by writing about what they had learned about the Fibonacci Sequence (bet you don't know what that is...but they do :). Things settled there, I walked down the hall to check on one of my high school tutors who was discussing quartiles with his grade 4 group of 6 happy students. They had colored M&Ms layed out on the table (tutor's idea!). Further down the hall was another tutor with her group of 4 second graders. They were all engaged in drawing a line graph on the board that depicted the number of times they could jump in 1 minute. At 3:45 I hopped in the car and drove over to another school where two high school tutors were teaching algebra to a group of 8 some-what confused 4th graders. Instead of "I'm bored in math" I now hear, all the time, "Wow, this is hard!". It is so exciting to see how the AMped program has grown!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Enriching Tears

Yesterday I stopped in to see how my tutors were doing at a school where I am helping start up an after school math enrichment tutoring program. This is all part of my sabbatical, helping other schools get math enrichment going in their schools. The tutors in this school were teaching 4th graders algegra, how to solve for a variable. Tutors are learning how to teach; tutees are learning algebra. There was a lot of learning going on. One minute a very sensitive 4th grade student was standing at the board with a tutor, working through a difficlut algebra problem. The next minute the student excused himself to go to the bathroom. Just prior to that he had admonished two boys in the front row, "Stop laughing!" he snaped at his classmates with a tense voice. Now, to everybody else, it looked like this boy just needed to make a quick visit to the bathroom but I suspected otherwise. I tracked him down in the bathroom....he was in tears. Last week in my group of after school math enrichment students (grades 1-5) a 1st grader burst into tears for unknown reasons so I gave her a long hug and on we moved. I later received an e-mail from her mom. This little girl was upset because she thought she should know how to multiply. The 4th and 5th graders can, why can't I, she cried to her mother.

It has been insightful for me to work with my highly capable math students. They have a whole different psychology going on. All of these kids have sat in their math classes, bored much of the time. The repeated practice needed by most, is wasted time for them. Consequently,they have learned that things come easy. What they haven't learned, at least during their math classes is how to persist when working on a difficult problem and how it feels when you don't understand something right away and what to do when you feel like that. One of the principals I work with related a really interesting study to me as we discussed the 4th grader who ran out of the room. While in graduate school, she recalled running across a study comparing mathematics learning and type of math teacher. One group of students was taught math by your typcial mathematics professor. The other group learned math from a psychologist. The group who learned the most math, interestingly, were taught by the psychologist. Turns out, he encouraged students to move beyond what was comfortable, think originally, persist when a problem was difficult and to enjoy working through a challenging problem. As a psychologist by training (I am both a psychologist and special educator), I am also focusing on helping students hang in there when a math problem is difficult. My thinking, and I was unprepared for this but happy by it, my thinking is that along with learning advanced mathematical techniques in our AMPed program, students will also learn how to think, persist in their thinking and develop a love for the challenge of difficult math problems. Take on the challenge, be confident, take risks and let yourself be wrong.... Good things to learn for math and for life!

Friday, April 3, 2009

Grading, grading, grading

A big element of teaching is grading. In some ways I dislike it as I look at a pile of papers to be reviewed and marked. In another way I enjoy it. I enjoy the window into how students think. I enjoy analyzing errors and developing plans to teach my students (both elementary school students and college students). Today I have a pile of pre-tests to grade. I have pre-tested students in grades 3, 4, and 5 and have their pile of tests. I have the pre-tests from 6 tutors in two schools now, as well. I'm thinking I have somewhere along the lines of 50 tests sitting on my kitchen counter. So my pile is.....huge. The M3 program we are using does not have a simple "mark a, b, or c" type test. Rather, tests require students to think and then write about their thinking so the grading is very time-consuming as you try to judge the quality of student thinking based on their writing. To me it's kind of like working out. I hate to get started but am happy and enjoy the process once I'm pumping weights or riding the elliptical machine. Speaking of that, I'd better get on that bike this morning since I'll be sitting a lot today!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Amped Up at Another School

I am happy to report that AMPed activities have begun at another school! I have things well under way at my home school and now have initiated things at another local school. We have tutors coming after school and I am teaching during the day. I'm busy but it's fun. There are 3 elementary schools in my school district. One school's principal hasn't gotten back to me despite 2 e-mails but elementary schools are busy places. However, at least 2/3 of the elementary schools are now AMPed. We are extending the newsletter and the website to include them. It will be interesting to see what happens next year.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

It All Came Crashing Down!

I don't know what happened today! None of the tutors showed up for their sessions so 5 kids were left sitting waiting for their parents to pick them up at school. 6 kids were in tears during the after school program for various reasons. My colleague got sick and had to go home so I was left with 25 students in one room and she had the lesson plans! One of our 1st grade students rode the late bus for 3 hours trying to get home. Don't know what happened there but when I called the bus company they said, "Well if the bus hasn't come it'll be there soon." No comfort to the screaming parent! My computer crashed and I lost our brand new website and newsletter. I knew I should have backed them up. So much work lost. And to top off the day, there was a little accident and my $500 worth of materials the PTO just reimbursed me for got soaked beyond usage. It must be April Fool's Day :) :) :)